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Real estate's 'ridiculous' request before releasing bond sparks debate

A tenant vacating a rental property she had lived in for seven years was left flabbergasted after her real estate agent asked her to do one last thing before releasing the bond.

In a Facebook post, the Brisbane-based tenant shared a screenshot of the agent's message, which thanked her for "returning the property in really good condition", but added a caveat that she had to change a light bulb before the bond could be "finalised".

The post, in a group for renters, divided opinion about a seemingly trivial yet common issue for renters: who takes on the responsibility of replacing fixtures such as light bulbs, especially at the end of a tenancy?

Message from real estate agent to tenant about replacing broken light bulb
An annoyed tenant shared a message from her real estate agent asking her to change a broken light bulb before releasing her bond. Source: Facebook

Ridiculous request?

Members of the group were at odds over whether tenant or landlord is responsible for changing light bulbs in a rental property.

"Who's to say the light wasn't working the night before? Ridiculous!" someone commented, while another member opined: "It's not actually that ridiculous. Everything needs to be in working order. If it's not working, you need to fix it before leaving or pay for it to be fixed. They have to request you to fix it because you are liable for it. Yes even a light bulb unfortunately."

Some members of the group said they would be grateful if they received such a message from their real estate agent. "I mean they could have sent you the bill to pay an electrician to change it like many do. To me, I think they have been fair to allow you to do it yourself instead of just charging an exorbitant amount," one member commented.

Others shared their own experiences, with one fellow renter writing, "The real estate for the last property I rented tried to charge me $175 to get an electrician to go and put in 3 spotlight bulbs on the outside of the property. We did it ourselves and it cost us $21."

Industry standards

A property agent speaking in anonymity to Yahoo News Australia said that while it may not always be the case, tenants are usually asked to replace things such as light bulbs when they leave a rental property.

"I can't speak for everyone, but I do know that we do ask tenants to replace light bulbs if they have gone out," the agent said, adding that the request is nothing unusual.

While the property should be handed to the tenant with all the light bulbs working at the start of a lease, the agent explained that if a light bulb needs changing it is generally the tenant's responsibility.

According to the Residential Tenancy Authority (RTA), any arrangements about light bulbs should be included in special terms of a tenancy agreement as the supply and replacement of light bulbs is not specified in the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008.

"Generally, the property manager/owner may be responsible for maintaining specialised bulbs and the tenant may be responsible for the replacement of everyday bulbs," the act states. "If changing a bulb requires specialist knowledge or equipment, it may be part of the property manager/owner's responsibility to maintain the property."

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